The Grass is Always Greener on the Other Side of the Fence
Ian Tilling

I was coming into the end of my carrier in the police, my marriage was coming to an end but it was there because of the kids; I was desperately trying to find something; I was retiring at 49 years of age, for Christ sake! I desperately was trying to find something to keep me occupied. I knew I could not sit down and play dead; I played this gray hair, retired guy; I needed to do something. And I?m sure I could have done it within the UK, I?m sure I could have been joining lots of trustees, of charities and been working and working; I just needed another challenge. I run out of esteem of my first career which I thought hard to get and won this huge struggle and I did it and I was very successful. I just wanted something else and then just before I came here my older son was killed in an accident so hand on heart I came running to Romania to escape from everything in the UK and in the same time I was trying to find something which I can identify with.

I know lots of people who were involved with working with N.G.O.?s and charities and I know lots of British businessmen who had different interpretation; they?re here for business and whatever, and the diplomats and whatever and...

Am I different? Yes, I am. And I?m different because we hear lots of expatriates saying ?well, I?ve learned the language, I?ve became localized, I?m Romanian?. Fantastic! I take my hat off and I say ?well done, congratulations, bravo?.

So the important thing for me was - I?m not Romanian; I have lots of friends who pretend they are Romanians and who can speak the language beautifully in their own way and adopt all these Romanian customs but they are not Romanians and I think it is so false to see a foreigner going ?săru? mîna? and kissing a women?s hand. That was never in the English culture; ok, they maybe French, certainly Romanian; the English? They cannot even carry off with the finest finesse that you can actually bring up; we can never carry off; I mean it?s wasted on the English; the English can never ?săru? mîna?; the Romanians ? definitely. The French - absolutely, the Spanish - wow, but the English? ? come on, we were never born to do that; it?s not in our culture, why pretend doing it? I?m not Romanian. I am by birth British and by birth English, born in London. My experience since living away from the UK, and you got to accept that the first 11 years of my life were spent in Kenya, in East Africa and then from 11 till 42 in England and from 42 till 53 in Romania. I can hardly describe myself as a British; I?m most definitely European and I include Romania in Europe and I cannot identify anymore with a particular country because I think that?s untrue. I?m British by passport, but I?m not British by residence or nationality or nature. I?ve got a much broader experience now, but I?m also not Romanian; I?m married to Romanian, I?m whatever, whatever, whatever, but I?m not Romanian. I?m deeply aware that I?m not Romanian and that?s what sets me apart from the expatriates who lived here who pretend to be Romanians and they?re not. Does that make sense? I don?t know.

I like pork, I like beef. I like tomatoes, I hate mămăliga, I cannot understand why anyone could eat; sarmale, I can eat two maybe once, twice a year.

But I went into a market place and I saw all this big barrels- empty market back in the old days, and the smell was awful and I say where is that smell coming from? ?Ah, there the cabbage leafs?. ?What cabbage leafs?? ?For sarmale.? All right, ok, and that was it. My brain switched off ? in fact my brain didn?t switch off; it put up the big Q card whenever you?re offered sarmale ? refuse. So when I first came over here the only places you could really eat in a restaurant wise back in the nineties was the Bucureşti or the Lido hotel. And you had a plus because you had entertainment as well. Floor dance or whatever. And the food was reasonable. But I was eating for the first six months that I was over here hors-d?oeuvres which consisted of pork brain, the spinal cord of the pig and various other things which I was eating  for 6 months until I discovered what they were and then I was sick for all the 6 months previous. And I was enjoining it. That was the worse thing. I was actually enjoying what I was eating until I found out what it was that I was eating.  English are very stade, they?re very...

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